Big Vessel

Watch this unique 3D CT movie

heart vascular health line art

This 3D CT movie peels away the structures of the lateral chest wall area to reveal a normal aorta. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body. The aorta emerges from the top of the heart. It sprouts conduits to the heart muscle, arms and brain. Then it curves back and plunges down through the torso, branching at several points to feed various organs. At the pelvis, the aorta splits in two, where it becomes the femoral arteries, feeding the legs.

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The movie begins with a view of the chest bone or sternum. As the inner portions of the chest become visible, you can see how closely the aorta sits to the spine. Sometimes the aorta stretches balloons or distorts. This is called an aortic aneurysm. If an aortic aneurysm breaks, it can be fatal. Celebrities who have died of burst aortic aneurysms include Lucille Ball, John Ritter, Walter Huston, Euell Gibbons, and Zero Mostel. Smoking is a major risk factor for aortic aneurysms.

Aortic dissection is another feared disease of the aorta. It starts with a slight tear in the aorta. Blood seeps between the layers or laminations of the walls of the blood vessel, forcing them apart. Those affected experience severe sudden-onset chest pain, and need immediate attention. Comedy star John Ritter is among those who’ve died from this condition.

This movie was produced and directed by Diagnostic Radiology: Cardiovascular Imaging. The Section includes five clinicians and two researchers, and their combined expertise is essential to the work of Cleveland Clinic’s Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute.

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